After last Friday's confirmation of earlier rumors that Apple would switch its entire Mac lineup to Intel-based processors, many of the Internet's Apple pundits seemed unable to believe the news. Some of them (including Russell Beattie and John Gruber) suggested that Apple might move to Intel-based PowerPC processors. If this was the case, the CNet report would remain basically true (although this would invalidate a story published over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal), and Apple would be assured that its "new" processors would be compatible with current software.
This line of thinking was invalidated during today's keynote as Steve Jobs showed that OS X was fully capable of running on Macintosh computers with Intel processors based on the x86 architecture. Not only did the computer that Jobs was using during the keynote using an Intel processor, but he disclosed that since the beginning of OS X five years ago, Apple has been compiling builds on x86 machines and setting them aside, just in case. Apple was so sure about the ease at which code compiled for the PowerPC could be ported to x86 that they called Wolfram Research on Wednesday to port Mathematica, one of the most complex mathematical programming applications on the market today. The port was completed in two hours. More crazy anecdotes in liveblogs of the keynotes from the Mac News Network and the Mac Observer.
While of this is exhilarating, none of it supports my earlier hope that Apple would position Mac OS X to directly compete with Microsoft Windows. While we will have to wait over the next two years to see, all signs seem to point to Apple's continuing to produce their own hardware. The only difference will be that new Macs will have an Intel x86 processor instead of a PowerPC processor made by IBM. I can still dream that the x86 versions of Mac OS X will run on normal PCs, but I am fairly certain that such an event is still far off.